Earlier this week Conor McGregor sent out a number of tweets, which included him demanding that new interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje to fight him next. Today, Gaethje responded to McGregor in an interview with ESPN, saying he will not fight McGregor next.
“He’s losing his clout,” Gaethje told ESPN. “I don’t mean with the general public, but with fighters, he’s losing so much respect in the game, which he probably doesn’t care — but to someone like me and even him, I would assume that matters a little bit. He doesn’t hold the cards right now. I put myself in a great position. I asked for a say in my destiny and I showed up. Now, I can pick between Khabib and Conor. If I wanted to fight Conor right now, I could. Believe me. Why wouldn’t [UFC President] Dana White put that together? But that’s not the fight I want.”
“With fighters, man, [Conor McGregor], he's losing so much respect in the [fight] game.”@justin_gaethje believes Conor is being perceived differently by his peers. (via @bokamotoESPN) pic.twitter.com/RA385bUayx— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 15, 2020
Gaethje (22-2) won the interim title last Saturday at UFC 249 by getting a fifth-round TKO win over Tony Ferguson. That win now sets up Gaethje to fight lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) for the undisputed championship. Originally UFC president Dana White said that fight could happen this summer on Fight Island, but now he’s saying that fight will likely take place in September.
Gaethje has every intention to fight Nurmagomedov later this year and says there’s almost no chance for McGregor to get a fight with him.
“Unless there are crazy circumstances, where Khabib can not fight, then we’ll fight. That’s the only way. Other than that, you don’t get a say. Dana White laughed whenever they told him Conor said he was fighting me. He said, ‘No, Gaethje is fighting Khabib.’ You’re still worth all the money in the game, that’s true. But you’re losing clout when it comes to inside the game.”
With McGregor in Gaethje’s rearview mirror, he now has his mind set on trying to be the first man to defeat Nurmagomedov.
“That’s the fight I want,” Gaethje said. “That’s the fight I earned and deserve. It’s the only fight out there for me right now.”
Nurmagmedov defeated McGregor in 2018 and has been very vocal about saying McGregor will never get another chance at the title as long as he’s champion. Gaethje doesn’t have that mindset as he believes he’ll meet McGregor sometime in the future.
“I’m here to make money,” Gaethje said. “When I beat Khabib, I will fight Conor because I’m trying to cash in. Whether he fights or not — do I think he should fight? Absolutely. But there are so many jokes you could make about his next fight. I don’t know who he’d fight. One of the main requirements is you have to be coming off a loss.”